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Capital Region Sheriffs Launch #OperationSoberBoater Campaign

The sheriffs of Albany and Saratoga Counties are teaming up to launch a new safe boating campaign for the summer.

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple and Saratoga County Sheriff Mike Zurlo kicked off the Operation Sober Boater campaign Thursday at the Albany waterfront.

The campaign involving social media, posters, and giveaways is intended to reduce alcohol-related and other accidents on Capital Region waterways.

Sheriff Apple, whose officers patrol both the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, said registrations are up and he’s seen a lot of traffic on the rivers already.

“We can’t be everywhere, just don’t have those resources,” said Apple. “We did buy a brand new boat this year, we’re gonna put it out on the river probably once everything settles down. There’s a lot of logs and everything floating in there – which is another hazard within itself – and we want people to know the waterways we’re on, be aware of what’s in there, be aware of the hazards that are in there, and certainly don’t touch alcohol when you’re operating that vessel.”

Great Sacandaga Lake and Saratoga Lake are some of the busiest waterways in Saratoga County. Sheriff Zurlo says patrol boats and new jet skis are on patrol.

“It’s about boater safety. We want to make sure everyone has a great summer and be safe, don’t operate a vessel while intoxicated. Our guys will be out there looking. But, like I said, we’re just promoting everybody have a safe summer,” said Zurlo. 

Boating safety is on the minds of many after the recent conviction of Alexander West. West last summer piloted a boat into another vessel, killing an 8-year-old girl and injuring her mother on Lake George. Police said West had drugs and alcohol in his system during the incident.

Earlier this summer the Lake George Park Commission rolled out a new boating safety campaign that targets rental boaters.

Saratoga Eagle, a Saratoga Springs-based beverage distributor, is donating giveaways to the campaign in the Capital Region like drink holders, lanyards, and keychains printed with safe boating tips.

Company President and CEO Jeff Vukelic:

“Whether it’s on the water or off the water, it’s important that people enjoy our products responsibly,” said Vukelic.

Some of the materials are printed with the Sober Boater Pledge, which reads:

Never boat under the influence

Never be intoxicated on a boat

Never endanger myself or others

Never risk injury or death

Never be irresponsible

Never damage at boat

Sheriff Apple added that he also wants boaters to be aware of their use of social media and cell phones onboard, which he warned can be just as dangerous as driving a car while operating a phone.

“Again, we want you to have fun but do it safely,” said Apple. “And doing 65 miles per hour with one hand on a wheel and one hand on a phone is not a safe way to do it.”

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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